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Updated: UK could roll out 122,000 electric car chargers under EU plan

European Commission proposes mandating deployment of charge points in member states in push to boost low-carbon vehicles

UK electric car drivers could have 122,000 public charge points to choose from by the end of the decade, under new EU plans to accelerate the rollout of infrastructure to support alternative fuel vehicles.

The European Commission today published a proposal to mandate a minimum number of standardised public recharging points that each member state should have in place by 31 December 2020.


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The commission has put forward the idea, alongside plans to promote hydrogen and natural gas powered vehicles, with a view to accelerating the distribution of low-carbon vehicles across the EU.

The proposals argue that deploying “a critical mass of charging points” would allow auto companies to mass produce vehicles at reasonable prices while ensuring motorists can refuel easily.

Currently, electric vehicles (EVs) make up just 11,000 of the bloc’s 200 million-strong passenger fleet. But the proposals argue that a rapidly expanding EV fleet would help the EU slash its €1bn daily spend on oil imports and contribute towards its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 60 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050.

Should the plans be approved by member states and the European Parliament, the UK would have to significantly ramp up its charging infrastructure. The country would be required to deploy 122,000 public chargers, making it the third largest recharging network in the EU, behind Germany with 150,000 charge points and Italy with 125,000.

However, the commission notes that these public networks would represent just 10 per cent of the total number of charge points in any country, meaning when domestic and workplace chargers are taken into account the UK total could exceed 1.2 million.

Currently, there are about 7,500 charge points in the UK and plans are in place for a significant expansion in the network designed to support the roll out of 1.55 million electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2020.

However, the UK currently has no formal target for the number of charging points it plans to install, instead mainly relying on private companies to build a national network on the back of publically funded trials in London, the North East and the Midlands.

Chargemaster, the UK’s biggest charge point company, operates around 5,000 chargers in the UK after purchasing rival Elektromotive last year.

David Martell, chief executive of Chargemaster, told BusinessGreen he was confident the industry could scale up sufficiently to meet demand should the EU rules come into force.

“These are big numbers,” he said. “But it’s a very competitive industry so the capacity is there.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said the government would work with the Commission on the detail of the proposals, but added it does not support mandatory targets for deployment of infrastructure.

He added the government favours a technology neutral approach that allows it the flexibility to respond to new technologies coming on to the market.

However, the spokesman also pointed to £400m that will be invested during this Parliament to provide infrastructure, consumer incentives and tackle other barriers to electric vehicle uptake, including developing a universal approach.

“As the use of alternatively fuelled vehicles become mainstream, it will be important to ensure that common standards are agreed to ensure consumers can gain access to and use the refuelling infrastructure in place,” he said in a statement. “We recognise that infrastructure is one area where the market is not always able to deliver, so we welcome the European Commission taking a strong position on this issue.”

The EU’s new plans also feature proposals for a system of hydrogen refuelling stations, as well as a network of liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations, which would be deployed every 400km along major European road networks, and LNG fuelling points for ships that would be installed at 139 maritime and inland ports.


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